I Want a Change!
James Smith, 1860
Speaking to a friend the other day about her health, which is not the most perfect, she concluded her account, by saying, "I want a change!" She meant she wanted a change of air, and scenery; a change of place for a time. And a visit to the sea side, or the quiet country village, for a few weeks in the year — is very pleasant, and very useful, either to establish one's health, or to recruit it. But I could not help musing on the expression, "I want a change." How many want a change, and how many desire a change — who would be better without one.
It is a mercy to be satisfied with one's lot, and to desire simply to glorify God wherever we are, or in whatever condition we are. But there is a great craving in many minds for a change, any condition, any situation almost, seems to be preferable to the present. This shows that our minds are in an unhealthy state, though people in general do not think so. Reader, you may think you want a change — but are you sure of it? It may not be a change of place — but a change of mind, a change of heart, that you need.
Mary Edwards has been in her situation now for two or three years, and on the whole, a very comfortable situation it is. She has an opportunity of going to the house of God on a Sunday. She is well fed, well clothed, has very comfortable fellow servants, and her wages are not bad — but she has got it into her head that she wants a change. Take care, Mary, take care. There may be better places than yours — but there are many worse! You profess to love God, and have your name enrolled among his people, and therefore it is to you that he speaks, when he says, "Be content with such things as you have."
It would be a great venture for you to change, you may get higher wages — but you may have unpleasant fellow servants; you may have less work — but you may not have so good a mistress; you may have more liberty — but you may not have the same religious privileges; and what is life to a Christian, if he has not the enjoyment of the means of grace? Take care, take care, ask counsel of God, consult judicious friends, don't move in a hurry, watch the hand of God, be sure that the cloudy pillar of God's providence goes before you — or you may have to regret the change!
Thomas Joplin lives in a country village, he has plenty of work, is respected by his neighbors, and is acquiring an influence, that he may use for God's glory, and the good of his fellow men. But he has taken a fancy to a large town, and thinks he shall do better there. He feels that he wants a change. Let us advise you, Thomas, to beware how you allow yourself to be led by your feelings. They are always a very unsafe guide. You know what life in a village is — but you do not know what it is to live in a large crowded town. You would miss your fresh air, your pleasant walks, and your quiet evenings. The simplicity of your neighbors, and the frankness of your friends, will perhaps be exchanged for the deceit and craft of those who lie in wait to deceive. The temptations of a large town are great, and very different to those of a country village. It may not be wrong for you to make a change — but move cautiously, take as your guiding star that text, "In all your ways acknowledge him — and he shall direct your paths."
Watch God's hand. Wait God's time. Follow God's leadings. This is the way to avoid going wrong. Endeavor to be useful where you are, for it is in being useful, that God makes us happy. Happiness, you know, depends on the state of the mind — and not on the situation in life. The poor peasant is often happier than the wealthy noble. Happiness may fly in at the window of the palace — but she builds her nest under the cottage roof. Godliness with contentment is a good fortune.
Sarah Treffery is a single woman, and occupies a very useful situation in life — but she imagines that she should like a change. A worldly young man smiles at her, seeks her company, and offers to be her husband. Now Sarah is a Christian, and her New Testament tells her, that she is at liberty to be married — but only in the Lord. She may marry a Christian — but no one else. But she wants a change, and persuades herself she may be very comfortable with him, and would most likely be the means of his conversion. She thinks it would be wrong to refuse him, forgetting that in accepting him — she rejects God, and breaks one of his positive precepts.
O how many have made this change, who have deeply regretted it, and have gone down to the grave, sorrowing for their folly! Sarah, Sarah, be wise, and take God's Word for your guide, or you may have a change you will greatly regret! You may exchange . . .
plenty — for poverty;
peace — for contention;
the smile of God — for the frown of man;
a quiet mind — for an accusing conscience;
and may regret the change as long as you live!
Marriage is honorable — if it is not contrary to God's Word; but when the godly marry the graceless — it is inconsistent and improper, and must involve the parties in trouble and sorrow. Never be married, unless you feel that you are justified in inviting Jesus to your wedding, and are warranted to expect God's blessing on your union.
Sometimes, a minister of Christ, gets it into his head, that he wants a change. He is useful where he is — but he imagines that he may be more useful somewhere else. His people love him, and wish him to live and die with them — but he tries to persuade himself that a change may be better for them, as well as for himself. He imagines that he is not influenced by a love for popularity, or led away by the idea of respectability; he hopes that his motives are pure, and that his Master will approve.
Well, it is quite right for ministers to move sometimes, and perhaps it would be better, if some had a change a little oftener. But the question is: Did your Master place you where you now are? Did the Holy Spirit make you an overseer of that flock? If so, take care that you do not move without the Master's orders, be sure that you have the sanction of the Holy Spirit in what you do. Many ministers have made a mistake about moving, and have been miserable all their days after; and others have been obliged to return to the place, which they had no warrant to leave. It is a miserable move — to go any where, and leave the presence of the Lord behind us. Well may we cry with Moses, whenever we contemplate a change, "If your Presence does not go with us — do not send us up from here!"
Sometimes a church imagines they want a change of ministry, and they manage to make the Lord's servant uncomfortable, until he is glad to leave them. They would like a younger man, or a more learned man, or a man of more popular talents, somewhat more respectable. They are allowed to have their way. God gives them their request — but sends leanness into their souls. It is a sad change for them! Conversions are few and far between. Prayer-meetings are neglected. They have philosophy instead of Christ, and eloquence instead of the power of the Holy Spirit. Or they may not get even these! Now they look back and sigh, as they think of by-gone days. Deeply do they regret the change — but they cannot retrace their steps. Often do they exclaim, "Oh that we were as in times past!" But they must reap the fruit of their doings.
Brethren, beware how you treat God's servants, for our Master is jealous. He may take away a pastor — and send you a plague. He may remove a loving minister — and send you an unfeeling taskmaster. If you do not profit as you wish, look into your own heart, and see if there is no reason there; look into your life, and see if you can detect no cause there. Ask: Do I pray for my pastor as I ought? Do I contribute to the support of my pastor as I ought? Do I love my pastor as I ought? Do I go to hear, not what my pastor may say out of his own head — but to receive a message sent by him from the Lord. When the minister rises to preach, the people should say, with David, "I will hear what God the Lord shall speak."
If you imagine that your minister is dull — cry to the Lord to give him more life. If you think him dry — beseech the Lord to anoint him with fresh oil. If you see no proofs of success — entreat the Lord to put power into the Word. God's ministers are all prepared to say, "It is not in us." We have not the power, or the ability — or we would exert it. We are but earthen vessels, and we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us. We are just what God made us, and are only successful — as God works with us. It is very probable that you may not need a change in the ministry — but the minister may need to be baptized afresh in the Holy Spirit, and that blessing may be obtained by your prayers.
"I want a change!" This is a common cry — but you may not want a change of place, or a change of relation, or a change of society, or a change of employment — but you may want a change of heart, a change of disposition, a change of nature. If so, until you are born again, until you are sanctified by the Holy Spirit, until you are created anew in Christ Jesus — you will never be happy, you will never enjoy satisfaction.
You many change your country, change your climate, change your situation in society — but unless God changes your heart, and his grace changes your character — you will be still crying out, "I want a change."
Lost sinner, seek to experience the greatest of all changes, a change from death to life, from enmity to love, from sin to holiness. No change short of this will meet your case, or give you rest. God has promised it, ask it of him, and you shall receive it.
Believer, your changes have been many, they may be many more, and you may be saying, "I want a change." Remember, your great change will soon come, and then you will want no other change. But until then, every change will leave you in need of something, and you will find, amidst all the changes you get, the truth of the Poet's words,
Man has a soul of vast desires,
He burns within with restless fires,
Tossed to and fro, his passions fly
From vanity to vanity!
In vain on earth we hope to find
Some solid good to fill the mind,
We try new pleasures — but we feel
The inward thirst and torment still.
Great God, subdue this wicked thirst,
This love to vanity and dust;
Cure the vile fever of the mind,
And feed our souls with joys refined!